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Maryville soldier to be laid to rest nearly 80 years after death as a prisoner of war

Technical Sgt. Ross Thompson served in the U.S. Army before Japanese forces captured him in the Philippines in 1942. His remains weren't identified until 2021.

KENT, Wash. — An East Tennessee native who died as a prisoner of war during World War II and was accounted for 80 years later will be laid to rest on Friday, the Department of Defense announced.

Technical Sergeant Ross Thompson's graveside service and burial will be held on Friday, Sept. 30 at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington. 

The Maryville native served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines at the age of 50. Japanese forces captured him when 78,000 U.S. and Filipino troops surrendered at Bataan on April 9, 1942.

Thompson was among the prisoners who were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March before being held at Cabanatuan POW camp. Many troops died during the march, and more than 2,500 POWs died at the camp.

Prison camp records showed Thompson died on Dec. 10, 1942, due to pellagra and beriberi from malnourishment, and he was buried along with other prisoners who died at the camp at a common grave.

After the war, his remains and others were recovered but could not be identified. The remains of the unknown were buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial on Feb. 15, 1950. Thompson’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

On March 18, 2018, the unidentified remains from the common grave were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for analysis. It was there scientists were able to finally identify Thompson's remains using dental, anthropological and isotope analysis. Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System were also able to use mitochondrial DNA analysis to positively identify the remains.

Thompson was formally accounted for on November 10, 2021.

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